Volvo XC60 D5 AWD Inscription (2018) Review [w/Video]

Volvo XC60 2b

The Volvo XC60 is the 2018 World Car of the Year and a finalist in the Executive SUV category of the 2018/19 #CarsAwards. Could the middle-of-the-range D5 AWD Inscription be the sweet spot in the acclaimed Swede's line-up?  

We like: Beautiful styling, balanced packaging and a serene driving experience

We don’t like: Not that entertaining to drive, some intrusive safety features

Fast Facts

  • Price: R804 150
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Fuel economy: 7.7 L/100 km
  • Power/Torque: 173 kW/480 Nm

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Where does it fit in?

Blending the best parts of the XC40 and XC90, the new XC60 is a stylish family SUV.

Spun off the Volvo’s modular SPA (Volvo Scalable Platform), the XC60 is the middle child of the company’s XC SUV family. It looks to bridge the ground between the petite, boutique XC40 and the larger, more functional XC90, which is a multiple Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank winner. Pegged squarely at such executive SUV staples such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes-Benz GLC, the award-winning XC60 prioritises design, luxury and comfort over sportiness. Does the D5 AWD Inscription succeed in showcasing the range's best traits?  

What’s good about it?

Those looks

In recent years, Volvo has developed a knack for churning out some seriously shapely cars; even going as far as transforming the (previously humdrum) S90 sedan and V90 estate into some of the most stylish members of their segments. Being the middle child of the XC range, the XC90 incorporates visual traits of its XC40 and XC90 siblings. The smaller car’s cute boxiness is coloured with a bit of the XC90’s elongated stance and softer lines. Factor in those bold, Thor’s Hammer LED driving lights, and it’s a combination that lends the XC60 a graceful, but still masculine, air.

As the current holder of World Car of the Year, the XC60 delivers in every department.

It’s a similar story inside, where the function-loaded Sensus touchscreen infotainment system ensures those minimalist lines aren’t sullied with myriad buttons. With plenty of stitched leather, model-specific "driftwood" inlays and padded trim panels, along with chrome accents (replete with a delightful Swedish flag detail etched in the serpentine fascia trim), the quality of fit and finish feels on par with most of its German rivals, but while this unit’s light cabin trim bolsters the impression of spaciousness, it’s more likely to wear and discolour than the darker hues on offer.

Perfectly proportioned

The mid-tier XC model’s 2 865 mm wheelbase is marginally shorter (around 20 mm) than that of the XC90, but there’s an impressive amount of rear-passenger legroom, plentiful shoulder room and a luggage bay that, although smaller than that of the BMW X3, still serves up a claimed 505 litres and a whopping 1 432 litres with the rear seatback folded flat – a task made all that much easier by the inclusion of one-touch release buttons in the load bay. Given the amount of space on offer, it could be argued that Volvo missed a trick by not providing a 3rd row of seats, but that omission is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most. There are also some thoughtful little touches that lend a touch of polish to the XC60’s overall packaging, such as siting the aft passengers’ air vents midway up the B pillar, aiming cool air at their faces rather than refrigerating their knees.

Serene at every speed

From its sense of spaciousness and simple design, not to mention incredibly comfortable front seats, designed with input from osteopaths, no less, the XC60 serves up a restful motoring experience. Even the grumble of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel and the road noise normally generated by large-tyred SUVs struggle to penetrate the well-insulated cabin.

The Sensus touch infotainment system makes for an uncluttered and peaceful cabin.

Ironically, it’s the fluidity of this particular powertrain compared with that of the 2.0-litre T6 turbopetrol derivative that really impresses. While there are inherent concessions to mechanical refinement to any 4-cylinder turbodiesel, they don’t present themselves strongly in the XC60 and the lack of vibration through the pedals and steering is just one less burden on the senses.

But that’s not where the turbodiesel's virtues end. Although the T6 offers ample outputs (235 kW/400 Nm), we've found that the petrol-powered derivative is hamstrung by an engine that feels strained when pushed, plus its transmission's shift pattern can seem indecisive in mixed driving conditions. By contrast, the D5’s plentiful low-end torque – a healthy 480 Nm from just 1 750 rpm – seems to have remedied the latter shortcoming. The 8-speed automatic transmission plays along nicely with the diesel motor, allowing it to serve up the goods in a smoother, more considered fashion. It’s not sluggish, though. In-gear acceleration feels pleasantly brisk and accelerating from standstill to 100 kph takes 7.2 seconds.

Fuel consumption is similarly respectable, with the D5 serving up 7.7 L/100 km. The test unit’s air-damped suspension (an extra cost option, for about R27 000) furthers the impression of restfulness, ironing out bumps with little of the post-impact jitter that sometimes affects similar setups.

Safety aplenty

Volvo's interiors are well-appointed and lavishly adorned in leather.

Like most Volvos, the XC60 bristles with innovative safety features and effortlessly breasts the 5-star EuroNCAP mark. The specification includes, inter alia: ABS with EBD and brake assist, adaptive headlamps, driver drowsiness monitor, traffic sign recognition, lane keeping assist, rearview camera, and run-off-road mitigation and protection, which uses steering and brake assistance to pull the car back onto the road. When speccing the XC60 it’s also worth considering that such safety features as a head-up display and Pilot Assist are part of a Driver support pack (R25 750).

What could be improved?

It’s not lively…

One of the XC60’s greatest virtues also has the potential to become one of its few shortcomings. With that serene nature comes steering that’s light but largely devoid of feel and a softly-configured suspension, which, even in its sportiest preset, concedes to body roll under brisk cornering. And, while there is plenty of grip, courtesy of the Volvo's all-wheel drivetrain, the D5 Inscription's nose tends to push wide when hustled into bends. Some may argue that such driving antics defeat the point of a car as safe and relaxing as the XC60, but it’s also fair to say that the Swede's German rivals, such as the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, are both capable of balancing refinement and driver engagement.

Safety systems are irksome

Rear passengers are afforded plenty of legroom, plus air vents in the centre island, as well as on the B-pillars.

While the XC60’s myriad safety features are a reassuring boon, especially for families, some of the electronic nannies are rather intrusive. In this case, it’s City Safety, the sensor-assisted braking and collision mitigation system, that’s the culprit. It plays things a little too safe and shows a tendency to pick up cars parked normally along the road as potential hazards, setting off red lights in the head-up display, a series of aural alarms and engaging the brakes. If anything, it makes the otherwise relaxed XC60 (and its startled driver) feel rather tense. The semi-autonomous driving system is also a bit nervous and is often flummoxed by fading or complexity of the road markings upon which it relies.

Pricing and Warranty

The D5 AWD Inscription retails for R804 150 and comes with a maintenance plan and warranty, both spanning 5 years/100 000 km. Services are every 12 months, or 20 000 km.


Not only does the XC60's ability to serve up the best of both the XC40 and XC90 make this car the pick of Volvo’s SUV litter, but the D5 engine and transmission are well calibrated and the Inscription specification is both suitably luxurious and eminently tasteful. The Volvo's surfeit refinement and sops to occupant comfort may see it lose out to its rivals in terms of driving engagement, but the Swedish offering's competitively priced, calming to drive and oh-so-stylish. Whereas some of its rivals seem a bit clinical (the Q5) or long in the tooth (the GLC), the XC60 is "the finished product".   

Watch Juliet McGuire's video review of the D5 AWD Inscription:

Alternatives (click on the names for specification details)

BMW X3 xDrive20d Luxury Line

Not as cosseting as the Volvo, but arguably the most dynamically rewarding members of its class.

Mercedes-Benz GLC250d

Curvaceous styling, balanced driving experience and that coveted three-pointed star on the grille lend the GLC plentiful appeal.

Land Rover Discovery Sport SE TD4

Not as polished as its rivals but it has genuine off-road ability, and its 7-seater cabin offers up greater levels of practicality.

Audi Q5 40TDI quattro sport

Pretty much sets the bar when it comes to build and material quality, driving experience may be a bit clinical for some.

Related content:

BMW X3 xDrive30d (2018) Video Review

Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro (2017) Quick Review

Rival Comparison

Volvo XC60
D5 AWD Inscription
R 953 200
Engine 2.0L 4 cyl
Aspiration turbocharger
Power 173 kW
Torque 480 Nm
Gearbox 8 spd automatic
Fuel Type diesel
Fuel Economy 5.5 L/100 km
0-100 Km/h 7.2 s
Load Volume 505-854-1432 L